An Old Story about Joy
Here is an old story about joy. I promise it is about joy, but it may not seem so for a bit here. I would have been 23 when this whole thing went down. It was at the end of my time in college. I was housemates with three beautiful girlfriends. We had lived together in this crummy old house, off campus for two years, and had been close friends for four. In the last six months of living there, all three of them got engaged. In addition, three other very close friends also got engaged. I was MISERABLE. There was nothing I wanted more than to end my years in college with a wedding. My own wedding. Instead, I was watching everyone around me get married. I felt like I was losing everyone. I was a bridesmaid in and/or sang in more weddings that year than anyone I had known. Eleven. I was in 11 weddings in one summer. There I was, graduating from college, my life in front of me, and I felt as though my life was ending. I had dated a little in college, but it had obviously not gone anywhere.
One of the last weddings I went to was that of two of my closest friends, Jackie and Peter. This was a particularly painful wedding because I had spent several years in college pining away after Peter. He and I had been in a band together, spent many hours walking and talking and praying together. But in the end, it was all just to get close to my dear friend, Jackie. I don’t remember exactly how I got over the hurt of that, but by the day of their wedding, I felt truly happy for them. I know part of my “getting over” losing them (to each other!) was the fact that I had decided to move to Chicago and go to seminary that coming fall. I will never forget this moment on the day of their wedding. We were outside on a gorgeous summer day on Jackie’s family farm. I hugged her and then Peter. My heart had just been dripping with intense joy and gripped with raw grief in those two hugs. How could these two severe emotions exist in the same moment inside one person?
It occurred to me right then and there (I remember because I kinda made a fool of myself trying to express it to them as this was happening), that maybe the reason the joy was so great was precisely because the grief had been so great. Not that the two emotions always come in opposing pairs, but just that they actually compliment each other. I’m only a sample of one, but pretty much every time I have experienced something truly joyful, there is a wrenching pain that accompanies it. So, when I am feeling particularly down, I can almost always find something that is beautifully joyous close by. And when I’m feeling especially joyful, I can usually find a very sad partner emotion nearby. And for me, this has become a healing balm in either extreme emotion.
Monica Lin is married to Dave Lin (16 years) and the mother of Sam (14) and Nathan (12). She's been a nurse for 20 years, 14 of that in labor and delivery, and newly working as a school nurse in District 150.